How U.S. troops fight ISIS while Obama plays down their role in combat

The New York Times reports: The battle in Teleskof began early Tuesday when volleys of mortar shells and blasts from rocket-propelled grenades disrupted meetings that the SEALs were having in the town with officials from the pesh merga, the Kurdish force battling the Islamic State in northern Iraq. Soon, a force of more than 100 Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish checkpoints and overwhelmed the defenses on the southern edge of Teleskof, a largely Christian town about 14 miles north of Mosul.

The fighters from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had taken the town by surprise, forcing many local fighters to retreat north of the town as it was overrun. The attackers “were able to very covertly assemble enough force” to “sprint towards Teleskof,” said Col. Steve Warren, the American military spokesman in Baghdad.

The SEALs were grossly outnumbered, and radioed that they were in a “troops in contact” situation — military jargon for a firefight. Colonel Warren said that American fighter planes, bombers and drones were sent to the town, along with a second group of SEALs. That group included Petty Officer Keating.

Matthew VanDyke, who runs a security firm, Sons of Liberty International, that is training local Iraqi forces — the Nineveh Plain Forces — said that the SEALs arrived in a convoy of sport utility vehicles from the north and drove directly into Teleskof.

“They went directly into combat,” he said.

Mr. VanDyke said that one of the trucks in the SEAL convoy appeared to get hit by a rocket- propelled grenade, and that the SEALs then got out of the S.U.V.s and went further into the town on foot.

A pitched battle continued, with the SEALs moving among buildings in the town and calling in airstrikes. About 9:30 a.m., Colonel Warren said, one of the SEAL team members radioed for medical help. Petty Officer Keating had been shot by an Islamic State sniper in the side, in an area not covered by his bulletproof vest.

Two Black Hawk helicopters arrived, drawing fire from Islamic State fighters, but were able to evacuate Petty Officer Keating to the American military’s medical mission in Erbil. He was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

The SEALs eventually pulled out of the town after they ran out of ammunition, Mr. VanDyke said.

Eventually, several hundred Kurdish pesh merga and other local fighters were able to mass for a counteroffensive. By the end of the day, those militias had managed to expel the Islamic State fighters from Teleskof.

Although American officials have used linguistic contortions for months to present the American military role in Iraq as something other than direct combat, Mr. Carter did not hesitate on Tuesday to call Petty Officer Keating’s death a “combat death.” [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email